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I haven't read the whole thread, but what I find interesting about newbies using AS is that if they came from having fish only tanks they are used to doing massive gravel washes to take waste out. This is a definite no-no with AS. I'm not saying you did this, but you simply can't stir-up the substrate, it's soil, not sand. I'm using AS II in several tanks right now and really like the stuff. If I do rearrange hardscape or plants and the AS gets stirred up I have a 1/2" filter hose at the ready and just suck that area right out of the tank. If you can use the soil without stirring it up alot it's actually a good beginner soil IMO since it's very forgiving in terms of adding water column ferts. I've had tanks setup with AS and AS II for years and still don't fertilize religiously.

Other than not stirring up the soil the biggest factor IMO with new tank setups are the lights. In the first month you simply don't need to run lights more than five/six hours period. At this point I would trim where you can and suck out anything you can with the hose I mentioned and keep up with water changes. You could do them daily for a few days then go to weekly if the tank looks O.K. If you keep your lights in control you should be able to rebound assuming your other things are inline.
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